At the end of May, Google revealed a pretty big change regarding SEO: an algorithm update which is mainly focused on user experience. According to Google, the upcoming ranking change incorporates new page experience metrics announced as ‘Core Web Vitals’. In other words, pages with user experience criteria such as speed or responsiveness will rank better. Good news: it will happen in 2021 so any marketer should have plenty of time to be prepared for this major update.
So, how will this affect you? First, let’s do a brief summary about Google Algorithms.
Google Algorithms aim to find the most relevant web pages for a particular search. Following this, Google will position your page as a useful source according to certain factors that it considers to measure the relevance of your site. Since the Panda algorithm, SEO has been deeply connected to high-quality in-depth content which solves a specific problem and builds links in a natural and organic way. However, in 2013 Google announced Hummingbird: a new algorithm which includes 200 ranking factors to determine the quality score of a site. Yes, two hundred.
In that moment, a keyword search was not just a keyword but a keyword intent. In short, the user´s purpose for that search was the most important thing to consider during the search process. Conversational keywords became more popular but engaging content was still the key of Search Engine Optimization. In fact and after a few other updates (such as Pigeon or Fred), high quality content is still one of the most relevant ranking factors that any marketer should consider. In this sense, building links, researching the most popular keywords or selecting the right meta tags won’t be of any use if the user does not find your content useful and engaging.
So all things considered, content is the first thing that you should worry about but it’s not the only one. There are hundreds of SEO elements but here are some crucial ranking factors that you really need to know: page speed, mobile friendliness and accessibility. Your speed’s site needs to be fast, nobody will wait more than two seconds to see your content, even if it is the greatest content. User experience is what I’m talking about and also does Google. In fact, the new algorithm focuses on measuring user experience on the web.
In recent years, Google has added user experience criteria such as page load speed or mobile-friendliness as important factors to get better ranking results. In order to strengthen this, they have announced ‘Core Web Vitals’ as metrics to measure the quality of user experience.
Following this, the ‘Core Web Vitals’ measure:
- Loading time (Largest Contentful Paint)
- Interactivity (First Input Delay)
- Visual Stability of content as it loads (Cumulative Layout Shift)
Moreover, Google takes into account other search signals for page experience, such as mobile friendly, safe browsing, HTTPS and no intrusive interstitials. Therefore, user experience when trying to first interact with the site will be essential (FPD) from 2021 and also will be load speed (LCP) and page’s visual stability (CLS).
These three aspects of user experience are the only ones measured by the Core Web Vitals metrics but Google expects to update these metrics on an annual basis. However, they haven’t forgotten relevant content and following its statement they will keep prioritizing ‘pages with the best information overall’.
“We’re also working with external tool developers to bring Core Web Vitals into their offerings”Google
Due to COVID-19 effects, these changes won’t happen before next year and Google will provide a fair notice before they’re rolled out. The question now is what you need to do to be prepared for this major update. In the first place, it would be useful to perform a SEO test on your site paying attention to these specific metrics in order to optimize your site’s speed. Following this, there are several free platforms which analyze your site, identify critical errors and propose recommendations such as Neil Patel’s SEO analyzer or this SEO audit and reporting tool.
Also, Google strongly encourages site owners to ‘gather their own real-user measurement analytics for each Core Web Vital’. For that reason, a generic SEO test as previously described wouldn’t be enough. In fact, there are tools which already use these metrics to assess a site performance such as PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse or Search Console’s Speed Report. Therefore a specific analysis on Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift is absolutely necessary to improve page experience.
In conclusion, the use of these metrics will improve the page user experience and consequently, user engagement. Moreover, high-quality content will remain as the most relevant ranking factor but factors regarding page experience will be more important in cases where there are several pages with similar content.